Since our founding in 2006, we have focused on two primary project areas: (1) ecological restoration and (2) education. In addition, we have maintained miles of trails, sponsored and organized special events, and conducted Christmas Tree fundraisers. Moving forward, we are expanding our primary areas of focus to include (3) enhancing visitor experience. In addition, we support the preserve's Night Sky Program and plan to develop an Artist-In-Residence program for Valles Caldera.
Since our founding in 2006, we have received $1.561 million in grants funding 11 ecological restoration projects.
The heavy livestock grazing of Valles Caldera's past, as well as logging, geothermal energy exploration, and poorly-designed roads and culverts, have damaged Valles Caldera's watershed, resulting in diminished vegetation, eroded stream banks, and degraded fish habitats.
Remediating these ecological problems has been a primary focus of Los Amigos’s work on the preserve. Our efforts at restoring the preserve’s diverse wetlands have resulted in restored habitats for numerous animal species, increased spring greening of sedges and other vegetation vital for Valles Caldera's wildlife, improved ground water retention and water quality, and increased retention of fine soil particles, building soils.
In addition to the on-the-ground impact of its restoration work, Los Amigos also contributed to the 2017 publication of The Plug and Pond Treatment: Restoring Sheetflow to High Elevation Slope Wetlands in New Mexico in conjunction with its Innovative Restoration of Historic Wetlands along Sulfur Creek grants.
From tours to publications, we educate and inspire Valles Caldera visitors.
Since running our first tour--a Geology Tour of Valles Caldera led by local geologist, international tour guide, and Los Amigos member Kirt Kempter--in September 2007, we have run numerous educational tours, featuring Valles Caldera's geological history, abundant wildlife, and unique cultural heritage.
In additional to technical publications detailing our ecological restoration work, we began developing educational brochures in 2019. Our first such brochure, which will be available on the preserve for day use and/or purchase, leads visitors on a walking tour of Valles Caldera's Historic Cabin District. In coming years we plan to develop additional educational materials detailing Valles Caldera's history, heritage, ecology and geology.
Through periodic volunteer work weekends, we help Valles Caldera maintain its hundreds of miles of trails.
Valles Caldera is still in the early stages of trail development. While it has over 1000 miles of timber roads from its days of private ownership, most are being allowed to return to nature as part of the preserve's restoration goals. However, 100s of miles of trails remain, many of which Los Amigos has helped maintain. Since 2010, we have hosted regular work weekends falling hazard trees; removing fallen trees, brush, and rocks from trail surfaces; and filling erosion ditches.
National parks, preserves, and monuments are dedicated to conserving and sharing the scenery and natural objects present within them, a mandate that includes the preservation of natural night sky conditions.
In 2021, with one of the darkest night skies in the world, Valles Caldera National Preserve was declared an official International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). An IDA International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) is a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value and/or for public enjoyment. Located in the Jemez Mountains of North Central New Mexico, Valles Caldera National Preserve is a prime destination to learn about and enjoy the wonders of the night sky, where it is possible to see the Milky Way, meteor showers, planets, and star constellations. The certification process included making detailed plans specifying which types of lighting would be used on facilities in the preserve, as well as where and when artificial light would be used.
In 2019, Los Amigos donated $8,000 to the Night Sky Program, which funded the purchase of a high-powered telescope and multiple lenses, as well as equipment needed for transporting Valles Caldera's telescopes so they could be readily used at multiple locations during public events. The IDA certification process required that parks complete two community retrofit projects to help with outreach and awareness regarding light pollution in local communities. To meet this requirement, Los Amigos de Valles Caldera provided direct aid funds to purchase light fixtures for two community partners, the Village of Jemez Springs and Hidden Valley Sporting Goods. As a night sky partner, Los Amigos will continue to support Valles Caldera's IDSP certification.
As an International Dark Sky Park, Valles Caldera plans to offer public astronomy events at least four times a year, typically between May and September. Learn more about Valle Caldera's Night Sky Program, including how to best view its night sky, by visiting Valles Caldera's Astronomy page.
Valles Caldera's September 28, 2019 night sky event, courtesy of Steve Allen Photography
Valles Caldera has one of the darkest night skies in the world, and Los Amigos is supporting its Night Sky Program.
Night Sky Program
A relatively-new National Park Service unit, Valles Caldera has many remaining visitor needs we plan to support.
Los Amigos is committed to supporting the development of those elements of Valles Caldera's infrastructure that can most immediately add to visitors' experience. For instance, recognizing the urgent need for trail and road signs on the preserve to orient visitors, Los Amigos donated $10,000 in 2018 to be used for essential signage. To ensure such funds are used most effectively, Valles Caldera National Preserve is currently in the process of completing a comprehensive development plan. Signage construction, as well as other new construction projects Los Amigos looks forward to supporting, will proceed once that plan is completed and ratified.
From celebrations to races, we donate funds and volunteer hours to support Valles Caldera's special events.
Los Amigos endeavors to fill in all staffing and funding gaps to ensure Valles Caldera's special events--its annual Fiesta en el Valle, past years' marathons and bike races, volunteer and volunteer appreciation events, night sky and after hours events, and so much more--add as much as possible to visitors' experience of the preserve.
There are currently more than 50 artist residency programs at national parks across the country, with programs for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media. We are proud to be in the process of developing an Artist-In-Residence program for Valles Caldera. While the details of the program are still in development, the residency will likely be 2 to 4 weeks in length and will include lodging. Stay tuned!
Inspired by its beauty, we plan to develop an Artist-In-Residence Program for Valles Caldera.
The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC), a non-profit organization connecting people to nature through indoor and outdoor exhibits, operates the Los Alamos Nature Center and hosts special events, including hikes and outings led by expert guides. We are proudly partnering with PEEC to co-host educational hikes in Valles Caldera National Preserve.
The Albuquerque Wildlife Federation (AWF) is a non-profit organization that protects New Mexico's wildlife and habitat resources, primarily through environmental restoration and education. We have partnered with AWF on all of our ecological restoration projects on Valles Caldera; in every case, AWF provided volunteer hours vital to project success.
Friends of the Sandia Mountains and New Mexico Cross Country Ski Club volunteers work on trail maintenance on the Sandia and Jemez Ranger Districts. The ski trails are also used for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. The volunteers use tools such as pole saws, bow saws, and long handle loppers. Several club members are U.S. Forest Service certified chain saw and cross-cut saw operators. On the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the club has worked on trails in the Coyote Call area and on South Mountain.
Rio Grande Return (RGR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to protecting New Mexico’s rivers, streams, springs, seeps, and the unique habitats and diverse wildlife they support. Los Amigos de Valles Caldera has been working with RGR through National Park Service task agreements on a multi-year effort to repair and rebuild the boundary fence on the north side of the Valles Caldera National Preserve and to remove the remaining un-used legacy livestock pasture fencing.
The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. Rio Grande Return supported YCC crews on Los Amigos de Valles Caldera National Park Service task agreements to undertake field restoration activities within the Valles Caldera National Preserve watershed restoration program.